Thursday, August 26, 2010

8 Pitch Entry #3: Phoebe

Title: Seas Run Dry


Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

When eighteen-year-old Irene meets Loril Walker at the boardwalk diner where she works, she’s struck by his sparkling eyes and exotic accent. But she’s shocked to find out that he’s more than foreign—he is, in fact half-merman. He’s come to the boardwalk because he faces a choice: spend the rest of his life at sea with his dying pod or settle down in the alien world of a father he’s never met.

Irene’s been facing hard choices, too: breaking up her band, leaving her friends behind to go to art school in New York City. She’s even been considering ditching college completely to stay in the seamy seaside town she loves. Falling in love with Loril makes these choices a little more complicated. But his pod waits for him, hoping he’ll one day take his place as their leader. And soon the couple will discover the terrible truth about Loril’s human family—when one of them threatens Irene’s very life.

8 comments:

  1. Great set-up for a romance! I like that both characters have choices to make, and that at least in the pitch, there's no clear "right" answer.

    After reading this pitch, I was left thinking that the main character of the story doesn’t seem to be Irene, but rather seems to be Loril Walker (who even gets a last name, when Irene doesn’t). His tough choice is a BIG deal, and truly something impossible to decide, with big repercussions and heartache. Then you go on to say “Irene’s been facing hard choices, too,” but the descriptions of her choices seem trivial when compared with the life or death drama unfolding around Loril’s dilemma. I was confused about whether this was perhaps even done on purpose, to emphasize how normal and mundane Irene’s life is in comparison. I think if that’s the case, you could get a bit more conversational with the tone of it, and really hit the humor. If it’s not the case, though, it might be a good idea to introduce her problems before Loril’s, just so there’s not that clear moment of “Wow, and she thinks her problems are bad?”

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  2. I agree with Meagan about getting a little confused over Irene's problems vs Loril's. Yes, for a normal girl those choices are difficult, but after hearing Loril's choices they do seem to fall by the wayside.

    I was also thrown by the use of 'seamy' to describe the town she lives in. I actually looked it up to be sure I had the right meaning attached to it. The definition was 'sordid' and 'disreputable' I think I understand the feeling you're going for with the town, but I'd change out the word 'seamy' for something else.

    I'd also change the sentence 'Falling in love with Loril makes these choices a little more complicated.' The choices are far from simple right from the off, and love itself is an infinitely complicated matter, never mind finding love with someone like Loril. So saying 'a little more complicated' sounds strange to me. Unless you meant it sarcastically, in which case it didn't come across quite right.

    All in all though, I'd definitely be checking this book out! It's an interesting premise in a world of werewolf/vampire boyfriends.

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  3. As always, my comments are a reflection of my subjective opinion. So, while I have put on critique-like-an-agent hat, it is still my subjective take. :) And I'm verbose, so I'll break my critique into two comments.

    Overall, this is a good example of a query with a lot of great pieces that probably need to be rearranged. The pitch did intrigue me, and I would probably have read the pages, if it were me, and I actually got past the first paragraph. But from the first paragraph alone, I would have passed. So…there’s a risk that on a busy day, fake-agent me might have read the first few lines and passed before I hit the interesting bits. The great news is I think some rearranging will make it much, much more effective, and then probably only need tweaks to what you have. See my bracketed comments below, made as I read for real time reaction, but then you’ll see when I suggest moving things around and why.

    When eighteen-year-old Irene meets Loril Walker at the boardwalk diner where she works, she’s struck by his sparkling eyes and exotic accent. [this is very subjective, but I’d be more hooked by interesting personality detail or an interesting reaction to action than eyes and accent – but that might be me (I’m a bit sick of the ordinary girl goes gaga over the beautiful and mysterious boy, who turns out to be extra special ;) ] But she’s shocked to find out that he’s more than foreign—he is, in fact half-merman. [might be more effective to show how she learns this, if it can be done concisely – otherwise, leave as is but up her Irene’s action level elsewhere (and after reading on and coming back, I would suggest introing Irene’s issues first, then I won’t care how she finds this out - lol] He’s come to the boardwalk because he faces a choice: spend the rest of his life at sea with his dying pod or settle down in the alien world of a father he’s never met. [By focusing on Loril’s desires and POV, he seems more interesting and active than Irene – and that personally turns me off – call it the passive ordinary girl syndrome. Is Irene the POV character for the whole book? If yes, then why? Show me in the query her story, not just make her an observer of his story. (and again, when I come back after reading the next bit, I do suggest that you move his issues down so they follow her issues. Then she is still the focus. ]

    (continued in next comment)

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  4. (continued from last comment)

    Irene’s been facing hard choices, too: breaking up her band, leaving her friends behind to go to art school in New York City. [ok, I’d suggest moving this up before she meets Loril – then when you intro him/his issues, they are complications to her already complicated life – makes her more interesting and the conflicts/complications more compelling for me.] She’s even been considering ditching college completely to stay in the seamy seaside town she loves. [why? This only seems relevant in the query is you show the reader why, otherwise cut that she’s considering staying here. ] Falling in love with Loril makes these choices a little more complicated. [so – if you started with her stuff, then introduced him/his stuff, then I think you could probably cut this sentence] But his pod waits for him, hoping he’ll one day take his place as their leader. [here on out it goes too vague and tenuous I think to be as effective as a conclusion (where you want the agent scrolling on for more right away, not let down – so I think if you start with her issues, then intro him as the complication, then it should end with her stakes – ie, what should she do, not him. And I’d show her stakes by showing a specific conflict with specific stakes for her. Ie, it would be the obvious concluding bit to show her choices about whether to … I don’t even know what – stay with him? Go to sea with him? Protect him? Something else? But give the agent clear and specific stakes at the end of the pitch, even if only her part of the ultimate stakes/conflict] And soon the couple will discover the terrible truth about Loril’s human family—when one of them threatens Irene’s very life.

    So, overall, some great material to work from, but focusing and restructuring will help you highlight the conflicts and stakes for Irene. And I think you have some great conflicts and what sounds like a really interesting main character. So put her front and center and let her be the focus and shine. And even if the book flips back and forth between them, focus on one in the query, and if Irene, then focus on her and her stakes/issues.

    Good luck!

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  5. When eighteen-year-old Irene meets Loril Walker at the boardwalk diner where she works, she’s struck by his sparkling eyes and exotic accent. But she’s shocked to find out that he’s more than foreign—he is, in fact half-merman. (Nice.)

    He’s come to the boardwalk because he faces a choice: spend the rest of his life at sea with his dying pod or settle down in the alien world of a father he’s never met. (that doesn't seem that drastic of a choice. dying pod or strange world that could have cool opportunities? no contest.)

    Irene’s been facing hard choices, too: breaking up her band, leaving her friends behind to go to art school in New York City. (those aren't really *choices*. they're difficult actions.)

    She’s even been considering ditching college completely to stay in the seamy seaside town she loves. Falling in love with Loril makes these choices(this works - the choice to go, when it'd be hard, or stay, where she's comfy) a little more complicated. But his pod waits for him, hoping he’ll one day take his place as their leader. (they're dying, and that's what they're hung up on?)

    And soon the couple will discover the terrible truth about Loril’s human family—when one of them threatens Irene’s very life. (this seems melodramatic. you have the making of a nice paranormal romance and then you tack on a threatening mystery? feels out of place. I want more about the dying pod. why doesn't Loril try to save them if he's supposed to be their leader someday? Especially since the book is about the choices we make re: love, it'd be more compelling if she DID help him and then Loril had to make a real choice between staying with her or going back, right now I feel like his is pretty easy, and whether to help Loril save his pod would be a more compelling choice for her too.)

    Good luck!

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  6. I'm going to say something as if I saw this in the store... Complicated Irene, with issues of colleg etc. meets mysterious half-human half-merman. That would would be the hook on the cover flap, FOR ME, if I saw it. But what external forces, from a query standpoint, are stopping her from loving Loril? Is it his choices, that he may leave her for his pod, or that she may leave him for college? Or is it Loril's human family? I like it, but making those things clearer would seal it if I were browsing at the bookstore : )

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  7. Hey guys--thanks so much for the feedback!

    This was actually a rewritten version of the pitch I've been using, which is quite a bit longer. I sent out a small handful of queries using this pitch, and netted a 0% request rate! :( My normal pitch has done a bit better, and I think it addresses some of your concerns. But I'm not really sure what to do with the advice that Irene's choices seem trifling compared to Loril's--she's a very active character, very much not the typical passive paranormal romance heroine, and though the stakes of her decisions are more personal, they're no less important in terms of plot. So, yeah, I'm not entirely sure how to make her comparatively ordinary, but no less important decisions sound on-the-level with his, which have farther-reaching implications.

    Pasting the version I've had more luck on below, for informational purposes, if nothing else. For what it's worth, it's in third person, with both characters alternating POV. The query below is a better reflection of that, I think:


    Seventeen-year-old Loril was raised by the people of the water. But though he was born in the sea, he’s not fully of it. As the son of a human man and a mermaid, Loril is a Walker, growing legs on the shore and a tail under the waves. But as he nears adulthood, shifting becomes increasingly painful. Soon he’ll have to choose between a bleak life with his dying pod or the alien world of a father he's never met.

    Eighteen-year-old Irene Cleveland also faces a choice. Wild and impetuous, she's spent most of this final Jersey summer playing gigs at boardwalk bars with her band. Now August is simmering to a close, and she's supposed to give it all up to chase her mother's dream: a scholarship to a prestigious art school in the city. But Irene's been considering ditching college completely so she can stay in the seamy seaside town she loves.

    But then she meets Loril—lost among mankind as he searches for his dad—and her choice becomes a little more complicated.

    Over the course of one tumultuous week, Loril begins to fall for Irene, hard. But he’s not sure what will happen when she discovers his secret. And though his pod waits for him, hoping he’ll one day take his place as their leader, he’ll soon discover the terrible truth about his human family—when one of them threatens the life of the girl he loves.

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  8. I've got to tell you that I'd stand in the bookstore and read the entire book based off of your actual, longer pitch! I think it does an excellent job of arranging both characters and their individual issues - which are vital to each of them even though they're very different.

    The alternating point of view isn't something I'd normally go for, but in this case I really like the idea, and I'm eager to see the world from both Loril and Irene's perspectives.

    I don't know how to tell you to condense all this awesome into a short, concise query, which is what so many agents want. That's still something I'm struggling with myself. But if you can get it down here, you can also get it down in a shortened version. Just keep at it. Ignore it for a few days, then go back and pick a little. Speaking of which, I'd better go harass my own entry a little more...

    Good luck! :D

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